Why Motivation in B2B Sales is overrated

Motivation im Vertrieb
July 15, 2020|By Lucas Pedretti

Managing Sales Behaviour to Improve Sales Performance using Predictive Sales Analytics

Improving sales performance often involves coaching and modifying the way your key account managers work – what practitioners in the field of sales & marketing define as behaviour. Changing behaviour usually leads to better performance in B2B sales.

There are several known theories and models about behaviour that have not been explicitly developed for sales professionals, but about general social practice.

The historically prevailing theories about behaviour are learning and social cognitive, social theories, theories of reasoned action and planned behaviour, and the transtheoretical model of behaviour change among others. In ascended is the novel BJ Fogg model of behaviour change.

B.J. Fogg is a behaviour scientist and author. In 1998, Fogg founded the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab. The main strength of the BJ Fogg model is its simplicity.

We can write it as B = MAT: Behaviour = Motivation x Ability x Trigger.

No one single model can explain specific cases of B2B sales behaviour, of course. However, we can use these general models and transfer them to B2B sales. What is necessary to achieve effective change within the sales team?

Let’s see what this model means for B2B sales behaviour.

Behaviour is a function of the sales motivation and ability, triggered by the right action at the right time.

Relying primarily on motivation to change behaviour is a losing strategy. It will never work. It is still a mistake many companies make. They create sophisticated motivational programs in the hope that they will change the way their key account managers work.

BJ Fogg model explains in straightforward terms how we can change our behaviour. It argues that behaviour (what we do) is a function of our motivation (what we want to do) and our ability (what we can do). Moreover, for any behaviour to happen, it needs a trigger. A trigger is something that activates behaviour.

B = MAT: Behaviour = Motivation x Ability x Trigger.

In the very words of BJ Fogg:

“Behaviour (B) happens when Motivation (M), Ability (A), and a Prompt (P) come together at the same moment.”

He suggests three simple steps to change Behaviour.

Step 1: Get specific: What Behaviour do you want?
Step 2: Make it easy: How can you make the Behaviour easy to do?
Step 3: Trigger the Behaviour: What will prompt the Behaviour?

Let’s add our thoughts about this model in the B2B sales context.

I want to help my team to sell more easier.

Being motivated in sales is essential, but sales motivation alone will not bring better results.

Sales Motivation is a topic of its own. We can only cover it superficially in this small piece. However, we can say with confidence that investing in sales motivation alone will not bring improved financial results. Companies should add changes in behaviour to the equation.

Having the ability, the motivation and the appropriate triggers can generate a sustainable change in the way your salesforce works. Furthermore, entrepreneurial behaviour such as proactiveness, innovativeness, and risk-taking are the traits that make salespeople successful.

Also, a recent study concluded that goal-setting is more important than motivation. Most top sales performers will find a way to hit their targets during bearish months, yet they cannot exceed their numbers substantially in bullish months. How can a company motivate sales professionals to over-achieve during good times?

Having a motivated sales team is necessary but is not enough to improve financial results in business-to-business.

Give your salespeople more manageable tasks and make sure they possess the skills to succeed.

Simplifying sales does not mean making sales dumb. It means streamlining sales processes to make sure your salespeople can make a real difference. Simple sales processes are followed and quickly adopted.

Every sales team there is usually heterogeneous. It includes new hires and senior salespeople, as well as less talented and motivated colleagues.

One of the primary duties of a sales leader is to ensure every member of the team possess the ability to perform the job. It might sound undeniable, but only people that can do a job will be able to do it.

Therefore, make sure that your salespeople have the necessary skills to perform their job. Simplify their tasks and processes to provide additional motivation.

In addition, we recommend that you provide your employees with the right trigger to change the way they work.


Use the right triggers at the right time to force behaviour.

If we look back at the behaviour model presented above, being able and motivated is two-thirds of the equation. Managers still need triggers to activate new desired behaviours.

Do your customers have undiscovered sales potential? Can your salesforce not negotiate good deals due to lack of time? Is your company suffering from customer attrition? None of these typical B2B sales challenges depends only on motivation, but on behaviour.

According to the model we are discussing here, your Key Account Managers will develop the right behaviour if they possess the skills, are motivated and received a timely call-to-action. For most sales situations, predictive analytics using machine learning can push the right impulse at the right time.

Predictive analytics can find available cross-selling opportunities, customers with a risk of churn, and customers with higher price elasticity.

Predictive analytics can find available cross-selling opportunities, customers with a risk of churn, and customers with higher price elasticity. Passing these impulses on to a competent and motivated sales team is a great incentive for success. These tangible and promising pushes for action from a Predictive Software offer a suitable stimulus for your sales team.

Why Motivation in B2B Sales is overrated – Summary

B2B customers are changing how they buy, and therefore Key Account Managers should change the way they work. Companies should invest in improving their salesforce behaviour to make it more effective.

Sales leaders tend to put too much emphasis on the motivation of their salespeople alone. Focusing on sales motivation alone is not enough to change behaviour.

Sales executives should work on motivation, skills and triggers if they want to make their teams more effective. The most effective way to change behaviour is to push valuable information about churn risk, cross-selling opportunities or pricing analytics to a capable and motivated sales team.

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